Westfield State, MASCAC cancels fall sports amid pandemic

Sports Editor
Published: 7/16/2020 12:12:32 PM

Westfield State University has joined Amherst College, Mount Holyoke and Smith College among the Division III programs in the Pioneer Valley to cancel fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westfield State announced on Thursday that the Owls will not have intercollegiate competition in the fall. The move comes as the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Council of Presidents announced that the entire conference will not compete in the fall.

The Owls’ fall sports teams (football, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s golf) will have the ability to practice on campus while utilizing the NCAA Resocialization of Sport Guidelines.

“I am extremely disappointed to have to announce to our student-athletes and families that our fall season teams will not have the opportunity to play intercollegiate games this fall,” WSU Athletics Director Richard Lenfest Jr. said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extreme impact on public health, and ultimately we need to take the steps that best protect the health of our student athletes and their loved ones in limiting the opportunity to spread or contract the virus.”

Lenfest was happy that the school could still provide team activities through practices, conditioning and skill training.

“Athletics provides numerous benefits to our athletes, including strengthening their social networks, health, fitness, and general mental well-being through the benefit of exercise,” he said. “Student-athletes will be able to train with their coaches, and while group sizes and activities may be modified to meet health guidelines, there is still the opportunity to reap the benefits provided by college athletics.”

A decision on winter sports was deferred until September by the Council of Presidents.

The NCAA has issued several blanket waivers regarding eligibility. Student-athletes who’s teams compete in less than 50 percent of that sports maximum allowable games for the fall 2020 season will not use a year of eligibility, so that Owl fall sport athletes who take part in team practices and activities will not lose a year of eligibility.

“The NCAA has acted swiftly to ensure that student-athletes do not unduly lose eligibility due to the pandemic’s impact on competition,” Lenfest said.

The MASCAC is also investigating the ability to allow fall-season sports to compete in the spring, should public health conditions allow for it, pending NCAA rules.

“Ultimately, we are committed to providing the best experience and the safest experience for our student athletes,” Lenfest said. “This fall, the safest option is to not compete in intercollegiate games, but we can provide the best possible experience given the current health situation by having team practices and training. We are fully committed to getting back to intercollegiate competition as quickly as possible, as allowed under the Conference and NCAA Guidelines, as well as local, State and Federal health guidelines permit.”

WSU athletes will not return to campus early for preseason in 2020. Athletes will follow the Safe Fall Opening procedures established by the university, and team activities will start in early September.


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